A consortium of eight leading U.S. scientific and
medical institutions, including The Johns Hopkins
University, is warning Congress in a report released this
afternoon that persistent flat funding of biomedical
research could thwart advances in treatments for such
diseases as cancer and Alzheimer's disease, and erode U.S.
dominance in science.
In its 21-page report, Within Our Grasp — Or
Slipping Away? Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical
Progress, the consortium said that years of stagnant
budgets for the National Institutes of Health also has
interrupted promising research and forced young
investigators to leave their scientific careers.
The group calls on Congress to provide more consistent
and robust NIH funding levels to maintain U.S. global
leadership in biomedical research. Other members of the
consortium are the University of California system;
Columbia University; Harvard University; University of
Texas at Austin; Washington University in St. Louis;
University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Yale University.
According to the report, the doubling of NIH's budget
between 1998 and 2003 transformed science in important
fields and fueled advances in basic research.
The report describes recent seminal advances in basic
research, fueled by earlier rounds of robust federal
investment in NIH-sponsored research related to Alzheimer's
disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, obesity, diabetes, and spinal
cord and brain injury. Consortium members say momentum and
advances will be lost and difficult to reverse if flat
The impact of flat funding already is serious, the
report notes. Eight of 10 quality research grant
applications are going unfunded, and such NIH components as
the National Cancer Institute say they can fund only 11
percent of research project grant applications, rejecting
many of exceptional quality.
"Warning bells should be sounding loudly in Congress
and among the public," says Edward D. Miller, dean of the
medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "The
world's premier biomedical research engine is at risk."
The bleak funding situation, the report warns, already
is driving many of the brightest young minds from science
careers and diminishing the potential for new treatments
even if funding levels rise, unless the damage is stemmed
quickly. Equally troubling, the consortium report says,
scientists are abandoning some of their most innovative
research in favor of more conservative projects with more
predictable results that are more likely to be funded.
Principal investigators also must spend increasingly
enormous amounts of time raising funds rather than
Frustrated by funding lags, U.S. scientists are
following research dollars to countries in Europe and Asia
that are making investment in biomedical sciences high
national priorities and actively recruiting star
scientists, according to the report.
The report, Within Our Grasp — Or Slipping
Away? Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical
Progress, is online at